An Open Letter To The Students Of 2020

Dear Students of 2020, 

Here you are! You are stepping into a world where no one has gone before. You are attempting to continue your education during a global pandemic. Someday your kids and grandkids are going to read about you in history books. 

They are going to read about your Chromebooks and iPads sent home to you from your schools for virtual learning. 

The face mask mandates in the districts and the creative face shields to replace masks.

They are going to see pictures of desks 6 feet apart and hanging sheets of clear plastic hung strategically throughout the school. 

Books and articles will talk about hybrid learning at home part-time, and at school for the rest of the time. 

It will highlight the stress of teachers, parents, and the stress of you as the student. 

You are being asked to learn on platforms that are still developing instead of classrooms that have been established for centuries. 

We are asking you to rise up and take a step into the darkness. The darkness of the unknown for our future. The unknown of when “normal” school full of chatting friends sitting nearby, tag at recess, and less than 6 feet apart for group work, will resume. 

It’s hard, and it’s scary, and you are the pioneers for this. Your feedback on Zoom meetings, Google Classroom assignments, and in-person lectures with adapted seating will drive our school system to success as teachers, administration, and parents navigate and troubleshoot this new layout of education. 

To the students of the 2020-2021 school year, our future is in your hands more than it has ever been in student’s hands before. And we trust you. Together, we can make it through and create a better world for those to come. 

You’ve got this. 

Slowing Down To Remember The Simple Learning

After 2-3 months of virtual learning, who’s ready for a good old fashioned “read out of a book” and “use pencil and paper” kind of learning? My mind is going back to my early school days of chalkboards, chalk, and big hefty erasers. Just take a minute with me to go back in time and picture the one-room schoolhouses full of heavy desks and children of varying ages all learning in the same room. What would they think if we explained our schooling methods now, especially today while schools are closed but we are still finding creative ways to learn online? 

Zoom meetings, iPads, Google Classroom, emails, and virtual learning are all jargon that kids as young as preschool can comprehend. Boy, learning has taken vast leaps and bounds since the one-room schoolhouse where all work was done on a simple slate! Even thinking back to my own elementary days, email was still a term that everyone was trying to wrap their heads around. 

Photo from Mrs. Beach’s Class– A quick read I highly recommend

Oftentimes I find myself longing to live in a simple time period where going to school was a luxury and nights were filled with candlelit dinners, reading, and music instead of extracurriculars, tv shows, and work on the computer. However, I am grateful for our opportunity to gain knowledge even amidst a global pandemic that shut down the world for a time. 

How are you feeling after a few months of virtual learning? Are you hyped up and ready to keep going, or are you coming with me back to the one-room schoolhouse for a little break? 

A Review On Vooks- Virtual Books

After a week or so of social distancing, we were losing our minds being so stuck at home! Anyone else? One of my solutions was to sign up for Vooks- Storybooks brought to life. They have a first month free trial for parents- Or first year free for educators! I’m not an active educator right now, so I did the first month free and wanted to share my findings with you. Please note that blog posts from Honors Grad U are never sponsored or endorsed. These are my honest, true thoughts and feelings on our experience. 

A quick rundown of Vooks. Basically a “virtual book” of sorts. Imagine those YouTube read alouds that others so generously post for us, but with small animation of the pictures and the words lighting up when read. Here is one quick example of this cute book by Zack Bush.

Some of the pros:  

Good selection for browsing if you aren’t looking for a specific book. 

Great way to introduce audiobooks, can be a scaffolding method into them. 

Downloadable- Don’t need data or wifi to use the app. Great for parents! Also useful for teachers for the days when technology or the wifi is not on your side. 

No ads!! 

They hear various accents and voices that I’m not capable of doing. 

It’s a good change of pace and a novelty way to read a book.

It can be empowering for a struggling reader to still be able to read books without the pressure of having to know every word. 

Cons: 

It can be hard when you need specific books 

They weren’t used in our house often- However, I could see that changing in a classroom. I know I’ve had multiple times in my teaching experience that I needed two minutes to find the missing papers, or set up something I forgot for a lesson, and a quick Vooks would have done the trick to give me the time needed. 

It isn’t a great replacement for a book, it’s just a more “book version” of a movie by using the same text, lighting it up, and using slightly less animation. 

My 2.5-year-old didn’t find them engaging, so I ended our membership when the free trial was over. Please don’t take this as an end-all for every kid! She may like it again in 6 months. She’s 2, she doesn’t really know what she likes. 

They weren’t quite as engaging as a movie because it was less animation, and not quite as engaging as a book because I found the animation often took out the deductive reasoning books usually offer and didn’t have the book “feel” to it, more a movie feel.

Overall, they were fun when it was free! And if I were teaching I would definitely be taking advantage of the first year free to give it a try. However, I did not feel like it was useful enough to pay the monthly subscription fee. Please remember I am one human with one opinion, I strongly suggest you take advantage of the free trial as well and decide for yourself how you feel about it. 

I wonder how these pros and cons will change as my kids are older, and if they were used in a classroom setting instead of in my home. Have you used Vooks in your classroom? If you have, please tell us your experience in the comments below! 

Featured photo from Vooks.com